ATLANTA — A lawyer for a suburban Atlanta woman whose husband was arrested after their son was left for hours in a hot SUV said Tuesday that she is devastated by the boy’s death.
Criminal defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman said Leanna Harris is “living every parent’s nightmare” after the death of her 22-month-old son, Cooper.
The woman’s husband, Justin Ross Harris, 33, was arrested on charges of murder and child cruelty after the boy’s death June 18. The father told police he left his son in the backseat of his SUV for about seven hours after forgetting to drop him off at day care and going to work, investigators in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County have said.
Leanna Harris has not been charged in the case.
Zimmerman criticized media coverage of her reaction to her son’s death, saying speculation over a perceived lack of emotion in the case thus far is similar to what 1996 Olympic bombing hero Richard Jewell faced after an attack that year on the summer games in Atlanta.
Jewell led people away from a suspicious backpack before a blast killed one and left more than 100 people injured. He became the target of intense scrutiny after an unattributed news report said he was the focus of the investigation into the attack. Jewell’s name was cleared in 2006 and he died the following year at age 44.
“Newspapers, television and online media have fostered a poisonous atmosphere in which Leanna’s every word, action and emotion — or failure to cry in front of a crowd — is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning,” Zimmerman said.
He added that the media has dug into his client’s upbringing, marriage and sex life. Zimmerman also said Leanna Harris has been unable to return to work and she’s asking to be allowed to grieve her son privately.
During an hourslong probable cause hearing on July 3, prosecutors said evidence shows Justin Ross Harris had been leading a double life and was sending nude photos with several women — including at least one teenager — even on the day his son died. The couple had two life insurance policies for the toddler, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000. After his son’s death, Harris talked with relatives about what they needed to do to file claims, investigators have said.
Harris’ defense attorney Maddox Kilgore has argued that evidence in the case is insufficient and the boy’s death was a tragic accident.
Justin Ross Harris remains jailed without bond.